The Necessity of Forgiveness Day 2 – Why Forgiving Is Hard
Do you know why forgiveness is so hard? As difficult as it may be for us to admit, the short answer is simply pride. Forgiveness is only possible when we are willing to humble ourselves and release the negative feelings we’re wrestling with.
A helpful Bible verse for our topic today is found in Ephesians 4:31-32:
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (ESV)
Back to our thoughts on pride: by refusing to forgive readily, we are demonstrating a spirit of self-righteousness. We believe, as our actions would suggest, that we are above the actions of our offender. Yet in any moment of weakness, we are all capable of horrendous acts against other people, even the people we love. And so we nurse the anger and bitterness we feel toward the one who hurt us and believe that by doing so, we are hurting them back. While that might be true, we are doing more damage to ourselves than to the offender. And worse, we are damaging our relationship with Christ.
Another concept about forgiving that we often get wrong is that we can muster up the strength to forgive on our own. We know we are supposed to forgive, so if we try hard enough, we ought to be successful. This is not the case at all, and when we have been deeply hurt, forgiveness on our own strength is impossible! So, then, how can we be successful in forgiving? It is only by the grace given to us through the Holy Spirit.
Another misconception regarding forgiveness is that by forgiving we validate the behavior of the offender. This is not the case! When we forgive someone, we do not have to accept that their behavior was okay. We can forgive while still verbalizing that their behavior was hurtful and wrong—yet we are motivated by love and find grace to forgive. However, we do not have to allow those who abuse us to continue their behavior; distance sometimes is necessary. But grudge-holding is never beneficial to anyone.
A Scripture verse I often think of when I’m struggling to let someone “off the hook” for upsetting or hurting me is this one:
“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’” (Luke 23:34, ESV)
These are the words Jesus spoke as He looked upon His enemies who were tormenting Him and putting Him to death. If I were in His shoes, what would my own response be? Sadly, in my anger and hurt I do not think I would initially ask God to forgive them. Yet Jesus showed such love and compassion toward those who were mistreating Him in unimaginable ways.
How might we learn from Him in this? How might His response open our own eyes to our prideful unwillingness to obey Him in being people who readily and always forgive? Admitting that our own self-righteousness and pride are the issues that need to be addressed most is a hard pill to swallow, yet completely in line with what we learn in Scripture. Our prayer is that each of us would have a heart for obedience in this, and with His help find victory in releasing anger and bitterness we’ve been holding onto. When we do, we will find that we’re freed from the chains of sin—a spirit of unforgiveness—that bound us. May none of us remain bound, but rather seek to live in freedom!